January 15, 2013 | Amanda Greenhoe

During interim, students learn about emotional reactions to color and their use in marketing.

January at Calvin means interim, a time for courses with titles like “Mixed Media Artist Bookmaking,” “Big Sky Geology” and “Turkish Transformations.” During the three weeks of January interim, faculty and students travel down some exotic academic pathways on campus, across the nation and around the world. Every year, the News & Stories team covers a handful of Calvin's many interim offerings.

“How many colors do we have in this world?” The impossible question comes from art professor You-Kyong Ahn, who explains that there are infinite color combinations available to us.

Ahn is teaching students in the Color, Image, Marketing & Design interim course the basics of color theory, starting with the characteristics of hue, tone, value and chroma. But underneath those building blocks are emotional reactions to color—reactions to which we are often oblivious.  

“Color appeals to our emotions and subconscious, not rationality,” Ahn explained. “Because of this, color becomes one of the most powerful design and marketing tools. Viewers are persuaded subconsciously by color images deliberately conceived by designers.”

Studies suggest that just five percent of our decision making is based on reason, Ahn noted. Therefore Ahn, who majored in interior design in college and did graduate work in architecture, sees the impression of color as a significant marketing tool: “Successful design promises effective communication with viewers based on thorough understanding of viewers and their lifestyles.”

For Ahn, the goal of the course is twofold: prepare world-ready marketers, and—more importantly—marketers who operate from a Christian perspective. She hopes that her students will examine the needs of their audience and operate with compassion, not self-interest.

Applied art

As her students learn the basics of color and culture—and how to view them through a Christ-centered lens—Ahn offers plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning. On deck for her class are projects exploring automobile, fashion and home appliance design.  

The students’ first project was to try their hand at designing a hotel suite, basing their choices on a given theme.

Junior Kristin Miller began with the romantic theme for one of her hotel suite designs. Her first attempt utilized blue, peach and tan. “I hated all of it,” she said with a smile. Miller, who admits she is partial to cooler colors, adapted her design to include warmer reds and pinks. Her secret to working with a color scheme she doesn’t love? Find complementary colors you do.

An interim opportunity

For sophomore Connor Schmidt, a strategic communications and Japanese double major, the class is his first art course at Calvin. “My dad is an artist, so I’ve grown up with art in the house, but I don’t really have time to take art classes at Calvin during the semesters,” he said. Schmidt says he most looks forward to the course’s upcoming project to design an identity package for a food market.

Sophomore Analise Glover said the course will help her make career decisions. “I’m going to use this course to decide whether I really like using colors, marketing and design for my future or if I want to go a different route for my communications degree,” she shared. “This course will really help me get a feel of what my future might be.”

No matter their reasons for taking the course, students in ColorImageMarketing & Design will get a crash course in color this month—one that will set them up for success in their future engagement with visual culture. 

To learn more about Calvin’s interim programming, visit calvin.edu/go/interim.

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